June 24, 2016
Well, the results are in and the UK’s electorate has voted by a narrow margin for the country to leave the EU. There are likely to be other developments but whatever you make of the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU – and I think it’s fair to say most independent people think it’s inexplicable – there’s no doubt that it will have a profound impact on the UK’s economy, relationship with the world, culture, working conditions and markets. What it will mean in practice won’t be apparent for months or years, of course, but that hasn’t stopped experts who work in the property, workplace, design, legal, HR and architecture sectors having their say on its potential implications. We’ll look at these specific issues in more detail going forward but for now, here’s a round-up of those we have so far, which we’ll keep updated throughout the day as the dust settles on what will prove to be a momentous decision for the UK, Europe and rest of the world.
May 24, 2016
If you’re still confused about the proliferation of green building standards worldwide, then brace yourself. A new standard that seeks to measure the wellbeing inducing characteristics of a building has been launched as a counterpart to the WELL Building Standard developed by the Green Building Certification Institute and the International WELL Building Institute. The new standard is called Fitwel, was designed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration and is overseen by the Centre for Active Design. The standard uses a scorecard that ranks buildings on over 60 criteria such as indoor air quality, fitness facilities and lobby and stairwell design. According to its proponents these criteria apply well-established scientific principles to address seven characteristics of a healthy working environment. The standard is very much a product of the US public sector at this stage and was piloted in 89 federal buildings during 2015. Its full launch is scheduled for next year. Image: Gensler / Hedrich Blessing
May 20, 2016
Anybody who is still confused about Building Information Modelling (there’s a lot of us) and its obligations under new legislation will welcome new free guidance published by the excellent Designing Buildings Wiki created by BRE, CIOB, BSRIA, ICE and others. Since last month, Level 2 BIM has been mandatory on centrally-procured public projects, with far-reaching implications for those involved. Clients, consultants, contractors and suppliers are now required to understand the finer details of the Level 2 process. But the 2016 NBS BIM Survey found 42 percent of respondents were just aware of BIM and 28 percent were not very, or not at all confident in BIM. The new guide aims to take users step-by-step through the Level 2 workflows, from the basics of storing project information to preparing employer’s information requirements. It is open access, meaning anyone in the industry can edit and improve the guide to reflect their experiences of using BIM in practice. It is aligned to Level 2 standard PAS 1192-2 and the 2013 RIBA plan of work.
May 19, 2016
“What Baloo had said about the monkeys was perfectly true. They belonged to the tree-tops, and as beasts very seldom look up, there was no occasion for the monkeys and the Jungle-People to cross each other’s path.” Now of course, Rudyard Kipling meant this figuratively but there is a link between up in the figurative sense and up in the physical sense. The executives at Omnicorp don’t lease the most expensive offices in a tower in the City so they can sit around on the ground floor watching the hoi polloi pass by at street level. And it’s why developers have taken to adding a little something extra to their tall buildings. A survey of the World’s 72 supertall buildings once found that more than half had added unnecessary height in the form of towers, spires and antenna to give them a little boost.Vanity, ostentation and status can be pretty unattractive characteristics. Even those who might disagree would probably prefer not to see too much of them in other people.
May 7, 2016
In this week’s Newsletter; Simon Heath suggests that FM should be satisfied with remaining essentially a service; Mark Eltringham bemoans the rise of tall buildings; examines commercial buildings that become synonymous with an organisational or sector crash; and celebrates the work of Donald Broadbent, whose research into cognitive psychology helps us address the effects of unwelcome noise in open plan offices and of German artist Fritz Kahn, in providing some understanding of how people respond to their surroundings. There’s news of a significant drop in employee satisfaction; why remote working may help to reduce the strain on overcrowded cities; and the negative effects of admin and unreliable technology on productivity. You can read the latest issue of Work&Place, download our Insight Briefing, produced in partnership with Connection, on the boundless office; visit our new events page, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.
May 6, 2016
At the movies, buildings are often used to denote hubris. The ambitions and egos of Charles Foster Kane and Scarface are embodied in the pleasure domes and gilded cages they erect to themselves and their achievements. Of course, the day they move in is the day things invariably go badly wrong. In the real world too, monstrous edifices have often presaged a crash. The UK’s most ambitious and much talked about office building at the turn of the Millennium was British Airways’ Waterside, completed in 1998, just a year after Margaret Thatcher famously objected to the firm’s new modern tailfin designs by draping them with a hankie and three years before BA had to drop its ‘World’s Favourite Airline’ strapline because by then it was Lufthansa. Nowadays BA isn’t even the UK’s favourite airline, but Waterside remains a symbol of its era, albeit one that continues to influence the way we perceive building design.
May 5, 2016
We might all welcome London’s success as a thriving centre of commerce and culture, but this comes at a price and we need to look for a better balance than we currently see between London and the rest of the UK. Of course London is often the main victim of its own success. Its thriving tech and creative firms continue to spill out of the incubator districts created for them to find cheaper and more appropriate spaces in which to grow. In doing so they are pushing up rents in such unlikely nearby places as Croydon. In the traditional business districts in the City and Docklands, the capital’s tech giants are now able to compete for the first time for some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. To cope with demand, the Mayor is rubberstamping tall buildings like never before, many of them bloody awful, unloved by Londoners and heritage organisations alike, transforming the skyline and creating windswept, arid tundra at their feet.
April 12, 2016
Londoners may reportedly be growing concerned over the proliferation of tall buildings, but what if they were constructed in wood, rather than steel and concrete? This is the possibility raised by researchers from Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, who are working with PLP Architecture and engineers Smith and Wallwork, on the development of tall timber buildings in central London. The use of timber is an area of emerging interest for its potential benefits; the most obvious being that it is a renewable resource. Researchers are also investigating other potential benefits, such as reduced costs and improved construction timescales, increased fire resistance, and significant reduction in the overall weight of buildings. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has now been presented with conceptual plans for an 80-storey, 300m high mixed use wooden building integrated within the Barbican.
April 11, 2016
An adherence to strongly held beliefs can make people think and behave in peculiar ways and get them tangled up in all sorts of peripheral issues that can then suddenly take on a great deal of added significance. Early religious artists, for example, spent centuries wrestling with the intractable problem of whether to depict Adam and Eve with belly buttons or not. It’s a question that troubles theologians to this day, but at least they can talk about it solely in metaphysical terms whereas artists have to make a choice between actually suggesting whether Adam and Eve were born rather than created, hiding the belly button completely or just going along with it and letting other people do the arguing. Most, such as Antonio Molinari (above) chose the latter although a few chose to use the fig leaf and artful posing to obscure both the genitalia and implied origins of their subjects.
April 6, 2016
A new poll from Historic England claims that nearly half of Londoners (48 percent) think the now 430 tall buildings planned for the capital will have a negative impact on the skyline, compared to the 34 percent who think they will have a positive impact. The study also claims that more than half do not know how to make their voice heard. The figures were released as Loyd Grossman, Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England and architect Sir Terry Farrell wrote an open letter calling for a clearer strategy on tall buildings for London. When asked which planning applications they would like to be consulted on, 60 percent believed people across the city should have a say if a tall building is proposed in a historically important place. But currently it is usually only those in surrounding areas who are consulted on proposals for buildings that may be so tall they affect views and settings for miles around.
March 18, 2016
Google’s ambitious plans for a new headquarters complex in California have been dramatically scaled back after the original plans were rejected by the City of Mountain View authorities. The original project came into question last year when it was revealed that Google’s plans were seen as overly ambitious given that they were competing for available space with LinkedIn’s plans for an office on adjacent land. The new plans, created by Heatherwick Studio and Bjarke Ingels Group share many of the same objectives however, including an open design, extensive landscaping, a focus on both work and leisure facilities and a flexible and sustainable design. The new schematics present it essentially as Centre Parcs populated by hipsters. As one Insight contributor convincingly argued recently, this sort of design is impressive and ideal for Google but should not be taken as a blueprint for anybody else.
February 19, 2016
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has launched an open consultation on the future use of its landmark Art Deco HQ building in central London. The first part of the consultation strategy is an online survey, to be followed by focus group sessions to gather more detail. RIBA Client Advisor, Sarah Williams said: “This survey is the start of a detailed process which will include defining the role that 66 Portland Place plays in the RIBA’s long term vision and values. Our detailed consultation will gather views and ideas from our members, staff and other users of the building including visitors, neighbours, meeting room clients, cultural partners, sponsors and patrons.I encourage everyone to participate to help us shape the use of this important building for the next 80 years.” Click here to participate in the survey and learn more about the consultation for 66 Portland Place.